OAKLAND Slowly, methodically, almost poetically, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning took three successive knees late Thursday night in the shadow of the Oakland goal line, each one bringing closer a disappointing finality for the Raiders.
The Raiders' losing streak is now six, their longest skid since 2007, after they fell 26-13 on a chilly night at O.co Coliseum to Manning and the Broncos, a team they finished tied with atop the AFC West just last season.
"Extremely frustrating," Raiders quarterback Carson Palmer said. "To rack up this many losses in a row in the fashion that we've done is just extremely frustrating."
The teams' current arcs illustrated how sharply their paths have diverged. The Broncos have won eight in a row and the division; the Raiders have been outscored by an average of 17.7 points over their six consecutive losses.
Thursday, the Raiders trailed 13-7 at halftime before the game took a similar turn to their Sept. 30 loss in Denver, where they trailed by four at the half before losing 37-6.
The Broncos, on their opening drive of the second half, marched to the Raiders' 1-yard line. The defense made a stand, forcing Denver to settle for a 20-yard Matt Prater field goal and infusing some life into the announced crowd of 53,087.
On the ensuing drive, though, Palmer dropped back on third down from his own 12 and had the ball knocked from his hand by Broncos linebacker Von Miller, who had ducked around right tackle Khalif Barnes.
The Broncos recovered, and two plays later, running back Knowshon Moreno's one-yard touchdown run made it 23-7. It continued a theme of games getting away after halftime from the Raiders, who have been outscored 139-51 in the third quarter this season.
"Obviously it was a competitive game, and then that was kind of where the momentum of the whole game kind of turned around," Raiders coach Dennis Allen said. "They got us pinned back, and then the sack-fumble right there was a huge play in the game."
The Raiders had kept it close until then largely with red-zone stands and three first-half sacks, despite the Broncos having few problems moving the ball by air or land. Moreno carried 32 times for 119 yards overall. Manning completed 26 of 36 passes for 310 yards.
Denver converted 7 of 14 third-down opportunities and had 30 first downs, six on some of the Raiders' 11 penalties.
"We're expected to get off the field as a defense on third down, and since we're expected to do it, we have to do it, and we have no excuse for it," said linebacker Philip Wheeler. "That's a good quarterback, but we have no excuse for it."
Offensively, it seemed when the Raiders took a step forward, they took another one back. Palmer completed a 58-yard strike to Rod Streater that put the Raiders on the Denver 22 on their second drive. But his next pass, intended for tight end Brandon Myers, ended up behind Myers and in the arms of Broncos cornerback Champ Bailey.
It was the ninth interception in six games for Palmer, who finished 19 of 30 for 273 yards and two touchdowns, one of them a 56-yard play to Darrius Heyward-Bey late in the fourth quarter.
The other was a six-yard pass on a well-designed misdirection screen to running back Darren McFadden with 1:59 left in the first half. McFadden, back after missing four games with a high ankle sprain, then got loose for a 36-yard run on the Raiders' first play from scrimmage after halftime but watched the rest of the series from the sideline as the Raiders were forced to punt.
"I know obviously this year our consistency has not been where it needs to be," Allen said. "There's times where we do some really good things, but there's other times where we compound mistakes, and that's what we've got to do a better job of."
Three games remain for them to do so, beginning Dec. 16 against the two-win Chiefs.